Arts & Humanities Grants: Beyond Fellowships

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Researchers in the arts and humanities often seek support for their work through fellowships and other awards that support single investigators. But don’t forget to look beyond those programs when seeking funding! The single-investigator approach to funding is supported through programs like the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowships, and by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) creative writing support. In fact, in some cases these awards are synonymous with grants: I’ve had many conversations with people who talk about “getting an NEH,” in reference to someone receiving a fellowship award from the NEH.

Distribution of funding across NEH grantmaking divisions and offices in fiscal year 2017.

But look at the chart above: notice that only 13% of the funds that the NEH awards annually go toward “Research,” which is the part of NEH that funds individual fellowships! When I talk with researchers about pursuing external support for work in the arts and humanities, I often start by explaining that even though these sorts of awards receive a lot of attention, they actually comprise only a small portion of the funds that either of these federal funders awards. In fact, a plurality of the funding (over 40%) goes toward large projects in preservation, public programs, and education.

Follow the money

Many of the funding streams beyond the Research division at NEH go toward collaborative, multi-year projects that support a range of activities. Just because the Research division has “research” in its name does not mean that the other areas do not involve major research in the humanities or by scholars. For example, the NEH awards as many (or more) dollars for programs that support the creation of research tools like reference resources and dictionaries, the creation of deeply researched and referenced media productions (i.e., non-book publications like podcasts and even video games), and the enhancement of curriculum by humanities scholars; the NEA, likewise, supports many community partnerships and research work that investigates the social and economic benefits of arts activity. Researchers in the arts and humanities can expand their funding possibilities by thinking as expansively and creatively as possible about the range of products that their research may produce, and the wider audiences and impacts of their work!

When I talk with researchers about pursuing external support for work in the arts and humanities, I often [explain that fellowships…] comprise only a small portion of the funds that they can pursue.

Earlier this year, I presented “Strategies for Federal Humanities and Arts Funding,” a webinar that offers more details on how researchers and potential applicants can approach these sorts of questions. The webinar includes an overview of a few NEH and NEA current programs. You can view the slides for this webinar at http://myumi.ch/DE8og, or view the video at https://youtu.be/38u7m9Zzrfo.

Researchers at University of Michigan are also welcome to get in touch with the Research Development team to discuss any arts or humanities related grant proposals, and more: https://research.umich.edu/research-development.

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